Question #5 – Why Make ‘Help’ A 4-Letter Word?

I graduated high school in 1974 and, therefore, grew up in the age of feminism. Women saw themselves coming into their own, and for the first time in Western history they dared flex their collective muscle in many arenas both public and private.

Many black women had had a very different journey, however. As a group we were not the protected fragile creatures society placed high on a pedestal. Instead we most often doubled as mild-mannered servants or long-suffering drudges – both at home and in the work place. Our demand for more equality was often tempered by residual racism within the women’s movement and countered by the reminder of the ongoing subjugation of  black man. Our calls for shared responsibility in child-rearing inside the home and a more level playing field in the job market therefore often fell on deaf ears, but that didn’t stop many of us from striving for excellence!

Now we’re a decade into the 21st Century and the large ‘S’ emblazoned across many of our chests – that symbolic touchstone for the ‘I can do it all by myself’ generation – has begun to wilt and fade. Not surprisingly, many of us  have begun to wilt and fade as well.

Instead of achieving a new balance in power along with a more fair distribution of responsibility, many of us have maneuvered ourselves into the corner. We’re shouldering much more than our fair share of the burden. At home we are still (!) most often responsible for the majority of the housework and childcare. Add to that our responsibility as (at least partial) breadwinners. In the workplace we were often so afraid of being thought of as incapable, that some of us have become a caricature of the alpha-males who symbolize all that is negative in the paradigm we are theoretically struggling to shift.

Somewhere along the way, we forgot that one little word that could have alleviated much of our pain, frustration and stress:


All of that doesn’t make achieving our heartfelt goals any easier. That’s why, when I discovered a list of reasons women give for not asking for help, I thought about how much more difficult we make it for ourselves when we feel we have to shoulder the entire burden on our own instead of doing everything in our power to achieve our goals with as much efficiency, speed and grace as possible.

Let’s make 2011 the year we stop acting as though “help” is a four-letter word!

Instead of getting immediately caught up in “action-itis”, spend some time figuring out what resources you already have at your fingertips, but hadn’t thought about activating before. Take out your list of goals for the coming year, as well as your action plan for achieving them. What circumstances would make your efforts to achieve each one of those goals more effective?

  • Instead of re-inventing the wheel, ask yourself who can share relevant information with you or connect you with people who can!
  • Instead of living in perpetual multitasking mode, ask yourself how you can delegate lower priority tasks to someone else to free up your own time for the assignments that are crucial to achieving your goal. If you can’t delegate, are there any tasks that can be postponed or crossed off your to do list altogether

Just in case you didn’t download the Formulating Your Goals worksheet listed under Question #3, I suggest you do it now and – as you think about each individual goal, write down a list of the resources you actually have on hand, as well as the ones you will need to acquire while on your goal-achievement journey in 2011.


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